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What the zone? How to avoid Columbus code violations off-campus

Students living on campus may face zoning fines when their residence fails to meet Columbus city standards of exterior upkeep or presentation. Credit: Chandler Gerstenslager | Assistant Design Editor

Many students might not understand, or take serious, a zoning warning until they see a fine taped to their front door with “$1,000 fine” in bold.

Zoning fines are issued when a house does not live up to exterior upkeep or presentation standards. If houses don’t have yards clear of trash or other miscellaneous objects after throwing parties, they’re likely to get a zoning violation warning. If the house does not oblige to notifications from the city, or oblige to its requests, a fine will be implemented.

Dana Rose, a code enforcement administrator for the city of Columbus, said sanitary and cleanliness problems were the most common violations for off-campus students at Ohio State.

He said the most common examples of violations she sees are leaving indoor couches out on the porch, having trash around and piling unused furniture in the yard.

“Students can’t have a refrigerator they are not using and throw it in their yard,” Rose said. “If you have something to get rid of, like supplies or tires or whatever, you have to do it in a proper manner.”

In addition to following the zoning code, Rose said students should make sure their landlords are following the specific requirements, as well.

He said common violations for landlords usually involved smoke detectors, which should be supplied by landlords on every floor with working batteries.

Overcrowding issues such as basement and third-floor occupancy are also problems regulators from the city were concerned about, he said.

To avoid overcrowding, landlords might try to put residents in the basements or top floors that do not meet the additional requirements for dwelling units, such as adequate space to exit, Rose said.

A permanent heat source also is required for every building, which means having only space heaters can cause code violations, Rose added.

Other regulations students need to pay attention to are electrical violations like wires hanging on walls. Additionally, windows should be able to shut tight without struggle, Rose said.

Rose said students should utilize campus resources like Student Legal Services to inspect a building when they move into a new home.

Students who notice any code violations or have questions can call 614-645-3111 to request inspections.

This article has been updated Nov. 7, 2017. 

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